Slusher part 2

Realizing that I have been neglecting the blog (a month yesterday was the last post), I spent much of this week deciding what to write about today. There was the first ever visit to my home by my Papaw and his wife. They stopped by on a Saturday afternoon and  I was honored to have them sign the Slusher Family Wall. I could have posted about my first ever visit to Maryland earlier this month. An informative conference where I learned a lot about my industry and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Or perhaps about the early snowfall this year and how my brother dropped by with his snow plow and cleared the driveway and sidewalks at my home. Another sign of the great person and friend he has become as we have gotten older. And that was just the start!

There was John-Michael's first "official" date with his girlfriend, Ben's inaugural visit to Comic Con, and Tanner working his tale off for the to earn a "Pink Party", the highest classroom award you can receive at his school. All great stories that deserve their own post. But I could not neglect my evening yesterday as I sat down to write.

I have written about my Father many times. A career Air Force Man, he died just a few months before retirement in 1996. His untimely passing cut short what seemed like an attempt to be more involved in the lives of my sister, Angelia, and I. See, he and my Mom had split before I was old enough to remember him, and growing up I can count on one hand the number of days we spent together. He was always living in Delaware or Turkey or the Azores with his wife and my other brother, the one who I have never mentioned here. He made such rare appearances that at times when I was a kid I could not remember what he looked like.

By extension, I was never very close to his side of my family. Sure I saw them, as my grandmother tried to include us as often as possible. And I still have a matchbox car that my Aunt and Uncle (his brother) gave me when I was a kid. But it was not like my Mother's family, who were a part of our everyday lives. I wouldn't trade that upbringing for anything. I have a Dad and I never thought I was missing anything after my Mom married him in 1986. John "Mike" Slusher was more of an urban legend, accessible only by the overseas phone number I could call every few months. (011-351-955-2244, can't believe I still remember that).

Last night, The Slusher Family gathered at my Uncle Joe's home for my Grandma's surprise 85th birthday party. The weather in the morning had been really abhorrent in Columbus, and I was glad when it cleared up. Little Red, Tanner, and John-Michael and his girlfriend Rebekah were able to make the 90 mile trek with me to their home in milford, ohio.

All six of my Dad's siblings were there, along with a multitude of cousins and other of Gramm's family and friends. Many of them were wearing T-Shirts with her high school picture on it, and I was delighted when my Aunt Joyce offered me one. "Another item for our walls at home", I thought. On the TV over the fireplace rolled a photo collage of her and her family, both when she was younger and after she became the matriarch of the Slusher Clan.

The entire evening was a great tribute to the woman who makes it a point to tell me every time she sees me what a wonderful woman my mother was. I remember my mom telling me that Grandma Slusher always made her feel that way,like she was one of the family even years after my father was gone. And I am grateful to have been invited. If the evening had ended with that celebration, I would have counted myself lucky to have that been there with those people. But the best part of the evening came from a man who has left more than one mark on my life. And last night, he did so again.

I didn't know what to think when my Father died, As I said, I didn't know him well. But my Uncle Dave, who was not just his brother but one of his best friends, was there for my sister and I during that time. He made us laugh and took our minds off of the moment, doing everything he could to be a rock for us. His imitation of Forrest Gump in a restaurant in St. Louis is a story for the ages and a bright spot during what was a very difficult time for all those named Slusher.

Then, last year, at my wedding, he spoke of how he would like to sit with me and talk about my Father, and find out who I am. He said he loved what I write here, which he had the chance to read at the reception. He wrote  a letter to me and my wife that still brings me to tears today. We promised to get together, and I even wrote a blog post about what he said. But as Slushers do, we lost track of time and did not really speak again until last night.

With a cup of coffee in his hand, standing beside me in the foyer of his brother's home, he began telling me a little about my Father. He told me that he felt like that my Mother and Father were kind of doomed from the start, because my Papaw did not care for him. I told him that both of them wound up living the lives they were supposed to. He then said he hopes I don't think of how my dad was then when I think of him, to which I replied that I do not judge anyone by their worst moments, because I certainly do not want to be judged by mine.

He smiled when I asked what his brother would have thought of being a grandpa, and he said he would have gotten such a kick out of it. He told me my father was a state track champion, even with his pigeon toes and bowed legs, and that he was kind of a legend at their school. We talked about how he loved to drive his little Dodge Shadow from Illinois to Cincinnati every other week, and how he always drove the back roads because "that's just who your Dad was, he was a different cat." I smiled because people have said the same about me. And he told me about the last time he saw him before he died, just a few days before my sister came to my work and broke that news that he was gone.

It was a great conversation, and I hope there are more to come. We once again have made that pact, and he even said he would dig out some photos and an annual to give to me when we do. I hope that day comes, because I would love to hear more. But we are Slushers. So it may be her 90th birthday before we talk again. Even so, I am grateful for knowing what I do now. It's more than I ever did before.

Day # 630. My Father, a track champion. Who knew? Grateful for my Dad, but thankful to my father as well. Without him, I would not be a Slusher. And last night, I got a little closer to knowing what that is. It is good to be me!


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